2020: Everything’s OK

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

In 2019, it was when I left my job and when Chris comforted me that we are ok. In 2018, it was realizing my own qualities. In 2017, it was giving advice in hopes of inspiring others. In 2016, it was the moment that when immersed in the election aftermath that anything could change. In 2015, it was the moment when I realized that I could finish Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2014, it was when I wrote a well-crafted piece (that I read to a live audience 11 months later). In 2013, it was when light shone in the face of despair. In 2012, it was when I stood up for myself. In 2011, it was a moment of clarity, sincere belief and friendship. In 2010, it was an action of commitment.

I would like to say that in this dump fire of a year that it was the moment that Trump was kicked out of the office and that Biden was elected! But still, that’s all about stuff so external to me. As privileged as I am, I realize that there were many things that during the last four years, they didn’t affect me so personally. Despite not being white, I still have escaped the worst. Plus the fact that so much of my family is safe due to our jobs and huge safety nets. Also the vaccines. But I personally have so many mixed feelings due to what I love about this time, yet craving the missing moments that I once enjoyed.

So the real thing that everything is ok…is actually job-related. It wasn’t even about writing, because I had already decided to have a beginner set there.

In the fall, I received some feedback at work that…the core thing about my job wasn’t good enough. It was simply devastating because I had believed that it was good enough. But when I finished the project and presented it. When others actually responded positively, when others really appreciated it, that’s when I knew that it was okay.

Particularly when the head of product for my group repeated the biggest takeaway from the report and gave me credit. I heard it several times in product group meetings. And I wasn’t going to shy away from taking it.

That’s when I knew that it was going to be okay. But that’s also partly when I realized…well, is this something that I want to be constantly doing. Seeking praise. Seeking validation. But there was something about the process, the way I would get to the results, that I appreciated on my own. That’s what it was all about.

And I knew everything’s ok.

2020: Next Step

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

In 2010, it was about dream making. In 2011, it was about sticking to my boundaries. In 2012, it was about being true. In 2013, it was about embracing fear. In 2014, it was sitting my butt down and writing. In 2016, it was about leading. In 2017, it was about persistence. In 2018, it was about seeing the big picture. In 2019, it was about moving on (on my own terms).

In this very special year, it’s about simply valuing the things (and people) I love and finding ways to recreate those experiences. It’s an easy cop-out answer for this year.

There’s a question though about FOMO that I know that I will unfortunately falter. What other people do, what the Jones do is going affect me. Look, they’re partying. Look, they’re traveling. Look, they’re doing this and that. And I’ll feel obligated to do the same.

I already had been progressing toward this path. I got traveling out of the way. I refined the friend group. I pivoted my interests into something that felt more fulfilling to me. I indulged in what I actually liked rather than what others liked. And I’ll be aware of what’s truly unhealthy for me. And what things were truly healthy.

But with this comes worry. When it’s back to “normal”, when it’s the After times, I might not feel the same anymore.

2020: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2019 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2019.

2019 5 minutes, 2018 5 minutes, 2017 5 minutes, 2016 5 minutes, 2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • When they announced shelter in place
  • When they called it at Four Seasons Total Landscaping
  • Biden winning Arizona
  • Getting accepted to Tin House
  • Getting accepted to VONA
  • Co-leading the BIPOC community at Tin House
  • Reading at a BIPOC event at Tin House
  • Workshop at Tin House
  • Getting published at Quiet Lighting
  • Reading at Quiet Lighting
  • Reading at Novalia
  • Taking a class on Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings
  • Making sourdough bread the first time
  • Making sourdough bread and it turned out well
  • Making a dutch baby
  • Birthday zoom
  • Animal Crossing and having people on the island on birthday
  • Meeting people on animal crossing
  • Getting Animal Crossing and switch
  • First day at new job
  • Eating at cafe of new job
  • New writing group
  • going to Orr hot springs
  • Getting po po big watch
  • po po funeral and burial
  • Doing The Artist’s Way
  • Taking the shuttle to new job
  • Winning trivia night organized by Becca
  • Watching lots of TV
  • Watching Tenet
  • Seeing Chris getting Tenet from Santa
  • Getting first covid test
  • Getting second covid test
  • Getting negative results each time
  • Seeing parents for the first time in their backyard since March
  • Having dinner with parents in early March against our recommendations
  • Waiting in line for House of Prime Rib on Thanksgiving
  • Having Farmhouse Thai birthday (remote) celebration
  • Having fancy eats from San Ho Won
  • Having first take home meal from Han Il Kwan
  • Having Claws of Mantis
  • Having the basque cheesecake
  • Giving a Pecha Kucha at work research summit
  • Writing and workshopping How to Grieve essay based on my experiences in the pandemic and Po Po’s passing
  • Reading a truncated essay of that at a Minor Feelings reading

2020: Making

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

In 2010, I made xmas photo. In 2011, I made metaphorical things—that were intentionally symbolic of relationships and history. In 2012, I made ice cream. In 2013, I made design. In 2014, I made “my room”. In 2015, I made the last line of Ice Cream Travel Guide, literally. In 2016, I made my annual holiday video. In 2017, I made another annual holiday video. In 2018, I made scones (from the Tartine cookbook)! In 2019, I made another holiday video!

See, there’s a theme! Granted, the most recent thing I made was actually two minor things—a hastily written draft chapter for a book that I saw for a call for submissions that had a deadline in 90 minutes AND writing for prompts during writing group. I cobbled both together in less than an hour. Sigh. That’s what happens when you give yourself principles of never losing out on opportunities. Carpe diem, as I used to tell myself over and over again in my twenties. With diligence.

But of course, since it’s that time of the year. The thing that I actually MADE was the annual holiday video. That is, half of it. The original concept was about talking to our past selves, inspired by this video. Originally it was envisioned as various scenes like January Chris talking to April me, April me talking to July Chris, July Chris talking to October Jenn, October Jenn talking to November Chris, and November Chris talking to December Jenn. But first, we’re bad actors (and comedians). And second, the editing is way off because I have no formal editing experience!

Then we trimmed it simply to 2019 us talking to 2020 us. Easily done. Quicker. With jokes inspired by Chris (I admit that jokes don’t come naturally to me). And so although we went through phases of Anguish (and moments of Christian Bale), we filmed all 2020 stuff. We added a few music tracks…and I put in placeholder audio clips for the moments that we need to film for the 2019 scenes. And so here we go!

The current draft feels pretty good for someone who lacks editing and acting ability. But hey, it’s the best we can do!

I am very excited. We’ll see how it goes when it’s complete hopefully by Christmas!

2020: One Moment

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.

In 2019, it was the moment that I realized that he was actually…alive and whole. In 2018, it was the moment that we realized that the car would start. In 2017, it was the moment (or moments) that I deeply connected with a group I had just met at a conference where I thought I would have been antisocial (or just horribly socially anxious). In 2016, it was the moment that I felt in the flow in telling the story of Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2015, it was the moments after my hat was “stolen” in Rio. In 2014, it was a moment in a writing workshop that I had achieved greatness. In 2013, it was talking to Yasar Usta in Istanbul. In 2012, it was using the ocean as a “big toilet” while floating outside Palawan. In 2011, it was my birthday moment. In 2010, it was the success in Journey to the End to the Night.

Sometimes when I look back at moments where I thought that I would be very alive—reading my own work, successfully planning some event and relishing the praise, talking to someone (who I think that I am getting closer to), or being in very social connected moments…it feels disconnected. I don’t feel quite in my body. I don’t feel like myself. Like I had concocted all of it as if it was meant to be perfect and designed. But the feelings aren’t there.

Instead in the past year of many things, I don’t know what that moment was. It likely was a quieter moment where I successfully created something. Bread. A story. Growing tomatoes. Holiday video. The aliveness is barely social. The aliveness is just the pleasure of being me and there.

Last year, I realized that this question is simply a synonym for “when you were the happiest?” Which directly I would answer as when I could stay at home. Which is the complete opposite of everything that everyone else wanted. I literally am tired of performing. And yet, my antisocial tendencies are coming out.

Perhaps it is the moments when I wake up and think “I don’t have to go anywhere today.” Maybe it’s the creation of a video as I always enjoyed. The fact that I can create something and send it out to the video.

It’s rather interesting that I am so drawn to creation. That just like so many years, I was so excited about creating any video. That as my energy goes into creating, developing it, editing, and everything…that it still makes me so happy.

2020: Letting Go

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

In 2010, it was a person. In 2011, it was an idea. In 2012, it was a symbol represented by a person. In 2013, I let go fear. In 2014, I let go of humility (or the desire to appear humble). In 2015, I let go of perfection. In 2016, I let go of expectations. In 2017, I let go of things and people I don’t need. In 2018, I let go of constant discovery. In 2019, I let go of expectations.

This year. This year. This year. I think that I could easily say the same thing as last year, expectations. But honestly, I actually didn’t have strong expectations due to Chris’ PCS. Of course, I had hoped to travel for work. I had some aspirations of going to a writing workshop in a faroff place like…Portland! But of course, as things went this year, none of that happened.

The things that I definitely let go of…is UNCOMFORTABLE PANTS.

Like pants with pockets. For years, I refused to wear jeans, but I was FORCED to wear them, because everyone wore them. Also, because they had pockets, so it was easier to carry the phone AND that stupid badge thingie. But now, of course, I don’t need it! Because the space is so small that why would I need pockets!

It is very likely like it happened during my first month that I would leave my phone somewhere and forget where and frantically look for it.

Whomp whomp.

Okay, so bigger meaning from the letting go of pockets. I just love the fact that I have my own personal space. The fact that I can dress pretty much however I want. And if I have a spill, well I can clean it up because nobody is watching!!! And if I gotta go, then I gotta go with nobody watching! I love the privacy. Years ago, I would have thought…well I can take a nap anytime, but I actually don’t. I just like taking long breaks! But the privacy!

2020: Writing

Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

In 2010, I said everything. In 2015, I said fear. In 2016, I said that it’s sitting down and doing it.
In 2017, I said that it was work.
In 2018, I said that it was lack of support. In 2019, it really was the lack of accountability.

The most obvious thing that’s getting in the way is the fact that my creative space that was meant to be my writing space was suddenly turned into my office space. Earlier this year, I had taken a job at a big company in order to relieve any work-related feelings at home and to make it so that it felt truly creative here. And yet, it all vanished when I had to find a way to keep WLB going.

This year though after doing not just one but two writing workshops/programs, also taking MANY classes, AND getting not just one but two writing groups…I would say that I have accomplished a lot in that realm. I had hoped to revise my novel, but I did finish a full draft earlier this year (before the pandemic). But the subsequent draft has barely moved that much beyond the so-so attempt as part of nanowrimo, but I got 50,000 words done!

Each day, sometimes I worry about things. And that worry turns into browsing the internet and trying to find an answer. Quite often, the browsing doesn’t turn into anything. So if that’s the case, then it’s not the room. It’s the behavior that needs changing.

2020: Entertainment

There’s way too much to say about 2020. But let’s start with the basics. Entertainment helped so much to pass the time. For those who were privileged for a safe environment.

I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. And now 2020.

Movies I Saw

It’s even more tough to say much about it this year since…we couldn’t see anything due to Chris’ incident then the PANDEMIC happened. But here we go

  • We Bare Bears: The Movie
  • The Invisible Man
  • Borat: Subsequent Movefilm
  • Cuties
  • Midsommar

TV Shows I Watched

  • Lovecraft County
  • Devs
  • The Baby-Sitters Club
  • I May Destroy You
  • Queen’s Gambit

Books I Read

  • Minor Feelings
  • Interior Chinatown
  • There There
  • Her Body and Other Stories
  • The Vanishing Half

Ways to Pass the Time

  • Taking yet another writing class
  • Listening podcasts about covid, the election and Trump
  • Reading news, which is related to the previous one
  • Telling Chris to clean up
  • Unsubscribing from emails


The worst part of this…is that it’s another way to pass the time

  • House Party
  • Facebook Rooms (only because I supported some of its work)
  • Zoom and all the creative ways to adapt IRL things (yes, in the worst way possible)
  • Google Home
  • Animal Crossing and visiting islands!

We waited for almost 2 hours in trying to have a tradition

It started with…nothing.

For years, Thanksgiving was a blank slate to me. Or at least something that other families celebrated with a large table, many family members from grandparents to aunts to uncles to cousins to second cousins to first cousins once removed, and a roasted turkey.

I don’t know if I ever had a turkey until my late teens when my dad “accidentally” brought us to a church where they were serving (free) Thanksgiving meals. When we walked in, I realized immediately that the meals were for the needy. We weren’t in need. The only needy thing was that we didn’t have Thanksgiving. Because my mom worked on Thanksgiving, not because she needed to, but because she chose to for the overtime. We didn’t need the overtime pay, but the lure was enough.

When my aunt and uncle moved to the Bay Area in my late twenties, we suddenly had an annual Thanksgiving meal like the ones I had seen on screen. They had formed a close-knit community at their church in the suburbs of Chicago and brought that tradition with them to my family. My parents had never formed bonds like that.

And this year, even though I never formed bonds, I missed it. Although I had gripes—mostly of the familial kind—a sharp divide between conservative and liberal viewpoints, how all women in the family (including myself) would try to one-up each other in dish-making, and awkward showmanship of bragging throughout the year.

Chris and I stood in line then at the House of Prime Rib instead. Orders (rather than the half or full prime rib) had to be taken in person. Chris had been against the whole idea because he believed that things like this should be eaten in person, but I insisted that this wouldn’t be around for awhile. And how long will this last? How long will his PCS last? I had initially thought that the line was going to be short. Maybe 10 minutes before ordering. But as we pulled up on Van Ness, I realized that no, it stretched down the block and once I got out, I saw that it stretched further than that, snaking down Polk Street. I jogged to the end.

This is where I want to describe the hopes and dreams dashed. It’s San Francisco of course so (I think) everyone wore masks. Most were Asian. Giggles rumbled through the crowd as we couldn’t believe that we were waiting. I messaged Chris to go pick up some time-passing materials—the Switch, a kindle, an extra phone. What else would we do on Thanksgiving? Would we do everything that we always did?

I have constantly been wondering why I panic at the idea of full reopening, with no restrictions. The feeling that now people can see me in full without a mask, for some reason, terrifies me. The fact that I am expected to be within six feet of other people scares me. The fact that I’ll have to talk to more strangers, more acquaintances…when I find myself struggling to even order and come up words…generates anxiety.

The chilly San Francisco winter air froze my fingers as I read on my kindle and the words blurred. I finally acqueised to Chris’ suggestions to sit in the car while he stood in line without any jacket. I told myself that I was weak for not being able to brave fifty degree weather.

There’s something tragic about the line. The way that we were there to get prime rib steaks, hastily blurted at the order after temperature checks and before a plastic divider to the host. A sign listed out the desserts and I threw in a cheesecake. Then we sat in the dining room—everything heavily spaced apart. A server calls my name “Jennifer? Jennifer?”

“Is that me?” I say, unsure since there’s a lot of Jennifers.

She brings the black tray with my card and it feels like I am in a restaurant again. But the bottom half of our face is hidden. I have entered the frame of thanking. I write in the gratuity and it feels almost normal as I calculate the total and sign, turning over the receipt. Music plays. I know that the restaurant has been outfitted with a state of the art HVAC system and I can feel the air blowing across my now unshivering fingers.

We later pull out the boxes from the bag—both King Henry cuts. I had it seared with creamed corn. Chris had added fixings to his mashed potatoes and extra horseradish. The boxes take up more than half of the dining room table with containers for sour cream, green onions, mild and spicy horseradish, bacon crumbles, the two steaks, gravy, au jus, and the separated container for Yorkshire pudding, our chosen side, and mashed potatoes.

We were alone and ate quietly into the night.

We waited four years for this

“We” meaning…well you know.
It’s hours before polls close across the United States. And it’s days, possibly weeks, or even months (?) before we’ll know the full count.

Because I have a lot of privilege—an ethnicity that isn’t constantly underserved, a full-time job that gave us the space today, a foundation that allows me soooo many things—I admit that I have been holding a calm with a tinge of anxiety. But early yesterday morning, I was startled with the realization that there’s so much hinging on the election.

It’s not that I believe that things will suddenly heal right after the election or that things get worse. But it’s just that…I am just tired. I am tired of so much, trying to have an opinion, trying to be that woke person, trying to be an activist. Trying all of that while also having my own personal goals. But it’s because I have a small hope that things will go back to before. I do realize that nothing will go back to before. Everything has been stolen from us due to so many factors. Yes the pandemic. Yes the way the president responded to the pandemic. Yes all the things that I found out about my so-called friends. Yes to all of that.

It’s simply awful.

I came across a post from 2008 when I talked about my voter apathy. About how my voting was inconsistent. About how I was uninformed about positions so I didn’t vote! And how looking back, I can’t even see myself doing any of that. I must go out to vote. When I read that post to Chris, he was appalled—that sounds like one of those voters. But that’s me, I said, in 2008. The fact is, there probably is so many versions of me. Even if there are people who are voting for the president, many aren’t even voting for their local propositions or their local leaders, because there’s not information.

I am standing here in my “office” while I should be working. I am listening to the Daily Podcast. Michael Barbabao is on his live podcast talking about THE needle as some polls start to close. “Some people love the needle. Some people hate the needle.”

I have no idea what will happen next. I remember sitting in the living room at Noelle’s apartment watching media coverage completely unaware that Trump was going to win. I saw the states turning red and…I couldn’t speak…I tweeted out later “No words :(”

I hope that doesn’t happen today.